Shrimp trawl gear specialist honored for public education outreach

August 22, 2011

By Jim Hiney

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has honored Texas Sea Grant’s Gary Graham for his work helping game wardens educate the public about turtle excluder and bycatch reduction devices.

Graham, the Texas Sea Grant Extension Program’s Fisheries Specialist, received the Director’s Award during the TPWD Law Enforcement Division’s seventh annual awards ceremony in Austin. Col. Peter Flores, director of the division, presented the award that recognized Graham two collaborators, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Gear Specialists Charles Bergman and Dale Stevens, for “Assisting Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game wardens with public outreach education by conducting commercial fishing training events along the Texas Coast,” the citation read in part. “In addition, to bring about a better understanding of the conservation efforts of game wardens, he has educated the public and commercial fishermen on recreational and commercial fishing regulations.”

Graham has spent more than 30 years working with commercial fisherman across the country and he is recognized as one of the nation’s leading experts in commercial fishing gear, particularly shrimp trawls. He was instrumental in developing turtle excluder and bycatch reduction devices — required by federal law in commercial shrimp nets — that efficiently do their jobs while retaining the greatest amount of shrimp.

Graham’s research on more fuel-efficient trawling gear is credited with saving Texas shrimpers about 2.4 million gallons of fuel valued at $5.7 million in 2010. During the past three years, the Texas shrimp fleet’s fuel savings are about 7.3 million gallons, or $17.7 million. The gear modifications also resulted in the need for fewer oil changes and major engine overhauls. These savings allowed many shrimp boats to continue operating, thus saving about 200 jobs that would have been lost had the boats been left idle due to unaffordable operating costs.

The Texas Sea Grant College Program is a partnership of university, government and industry that promotes and sponsors research, education and outreach programs aimed at the wise utilization and conservation of the nation’s coastal and marine resources in order to develop and maintain a sustainable economy and a healthy environment.

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Texas Sea Grant is a unique partnership that unites the resources of the federal government, the State of Texas and universities across the state to create knowledge, tools, products and services that benefit the economy, the environment and the citizens of Texas. It is administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is one of 33 university-based Sea Grant Programs around the country. Texas Sea Grant is a non-academic research center in the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M University. The program’s mission is to improve the understanding, wise use and stewardship of Texas coastal and marine resources.